By now you have heard of the theft of this vial of blood from the small church in L’Aquila, Italy. The shrine where the vial was kept is basically in a very small church, the Church of San Pietro della Lenca, that had almost fallen into ruin.
Until, that is, a certain man named Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) began to visit this area for a bit of skiing. When in the area he celebrated Mass here in the church. What a treat it must have been for the local inhabitants. The church is located just a few miles from the town of L’Aquila at the base of the Apenine Mountains.
An interesting note about L”Aquila itself is that it is here that the tomb of Pope Celestine V is located. Pope Celestine was the Pope who gave up his office in 1294, the most recent Pope to have done so until 2013 when Pope Benedict also relinquished the office of the Papacy. That visit was little noted at the time but later received quite a bit of attention.
It was here, in a visit in 2012, that Pope Benedict left his Pallium. The Pallium is the symbol of his office and the fact that he left it here was seen rather prophetic in hindsight.
We’d like to suggest an exciting possibility for those of you who like to cruise and also want to attend the Canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII in April. You might spend a few days exploring Rome and then join a cruise departing Civitavecchia (Rome’s seaport) for a Mediterranean cruise.
If you happen to be traveling with a group, your tour operator can probably arrange your return flight so that you fly home after the cruise returns to Rome or wherever the cruise ends.
For example, Holland America has a 12-night cruise leaving on April 29th (the Canonization is on the 27th) going from Civitavecchia, calling at Cartegena, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon, Vigo, Portland, Cherbourg, Zeebrugge and ending in Copenhagen. If you choose one like this you would need to get an open-jaw ticket…no need to buy a separate ticket. The really good news is that Holland America does have a priest on all its cruises.
Costa Cruises has a 7-night cruise leaving April 29th, and departing from Civitavecchia, stopping in Naples, Barcelona, Marseilles, Savona, Livorno (Florence,Pisa) and back to Civitavecchia. Costa also has a priest on all cruises.
In addition, there is a cruise on Azamara departing April 30th round trip from Civitavecchia, that will include Taormina, two nights in Siracusa in Sicily and two nights in Sorrento. We cannot verify that there will be a priest on board this cruise. Azamara uses a manning agency when they do have priests, and these priests are not screened the same way that priests are through the Apostleship of the Sea.
You find a few other possiblities as well….these are just the ones we came across after a brief search.
During the visits, Holy Mass will be celebrated and the Holy Rosary will be prayed, with meditations on a theme of the legacy of Blessed John Paul II. Following will be veneration of the relic to ask for the intercession of the Blessed.
The faithful will also receive a holy card with which they can touch the relic.
The Vatican has announced that there will be no tickets required—or offered—for the Canonization of these two Popes.
It will be first-com, first-served. So what does that mean to you if you plan to attend? These two Popes each had a tremendous following. Half of Poland is likely to be there to honor Pope John Paul II, and then you have the Italians, many of whom have fond memories of Pope John XXIII.
So you can count on huge crowds. Think you can show up on the morning of the 27th of April? Forget about that! Just the Beatification of John Paul II alone saw crowds line up at four in the afternoon the day before. So our advice is get ready for huge crowds. If you can’t stand the thought of waiting 24 hours be aware that there will be large-screen TVs outside of Saint Peter’s Square and probably in some piazzas nearby as well.
And finally….if you haven’t made hotel reservations by now, do it today. If you decide to wait you will probably be out of luck. Group tours may also be filling up, although at least most of them should have hotel space block.
As we have pointed out before, these are rather unique times in the Catholic Church. Having two living Popes is not something we are used to, but equally unique is the fact of having two Popes canonized on the same day, something that has never been done before.
One of the reasons put forward for combining the two Canonizations is that each was involved in Vatican II. Pope John XXIII, of course, is the Pope who called for the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II is the one who implemented many of its changes. As a result each Pope also had his supporters and detractors, largely depending upon their point of view regarding the changes (and sometimes excesses) of Vatican II.
The Vatican has made no official announcement yet, but it is possible that Pope Francis will be joined by Pope Emeritus Benedict at the Canonization ceremony on April 27, 2014. This would be something that has no precedent…and as we have learned quickly, Pope Francis likes to spice things up a bit.
So for those planning to attend the Canonization be prepared for one of the largest crowds ever to attend such an event and make your reservations without delay!
As expected, the date for the Canonizations has been set for April 27, 2014. This is Divine Mercy Sunday, a day which Pope John Paul II designated as a Feast Day in 2000. It is a floating feast day, occurring the first Sunday after Easter each year.
The approval process for Pope John XXIII was “fast tracked” by Pope Francis, since they did not have proof of a second miracle required to become a Saint. But the Pope has the authority to do so.
The dates will allow enough time to prepare for what will be a momentous event in the Church. Pope Francis alluded to the fact that many pilgrims would be coming from Pope John Paul II’s native Poland and he did not want them traveling hazardous roads in winter time to get to Rome for the Canonization. This was a pretty good indication that it would take place in the Spring, and what better day than Divine Mercy Sunday. And Pope John XXIII, best known for the fact that he is the one who called for the Second Vatican Council, was something of a surprise because it was thought he would be more of a caretaker Pope rather than one who made major changes.
If you plan to attend on your own, be sure to make arrangements with a hotel or travel agency that you can trust. Most are trustworthy, of course, but with the large number of people expected it is wise to be cautious. To arrange tickets for the event contact the Pontifical Household. Tickets are free, but will be in limited supply.
No disrespect intended……but just wanted to point out what you might expect if you attend the Canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. This has been an interesting few months for Catholic travelers: the resignation of a Pope, the election of a new Pope and then World Youth Day in Brazil. There is no doubt that the eyes of the world will once again turn to Rome on April 27, 2014.
The Good: It is a great blessing and privilege to actually be present for a canonization in Rome. Not to mention the canonization of two Popes…has this ever happened before? Tickets for the Canonization will be scarce but can be requested through the Prefecture of the Papal Household and the good news…tickets are free.
The electric excitement of the crowds is indescribable. Imagine being together with so many fellow Catholics from around the world: happy people from different cultures, different languages, different skin colors, but each enthusiastically sharing the same love for their Catholic faith. Are there even words to describe it? Probably not, but picture this… cheering crowds, vibrantly colored flowers everywhere, Giant TV screens lining Saint Peter’s Square and Saint John Lateran, flapping flags from many nations, Cardinals, priests, religious and an ocean of people as far as you can see, add to an atmosphere that is shroud in holiness and jubilation.
The Bad: It will be crowded…..more than crowded. Did we say crowded? But isn’t that part of the excitement?
If you are traveling independently you must know that hotels will be scarce and I doubt there will be discounts on rooms or any rooms at all for those who don’t act as soon as the date is announced.
Planning to join a group? Tours will book up fast and those who wait too long will probably find themselves disappointed. On the other hand if you sign up with a company before the date is announced you will have to be flexible, since the tour will have to scheduled at that time.
Pope Francis, in his usual concern for the every day folks, does not want it to take place in winter since many buses will be traveling from Poland and the roads will be icy. So our best guess is Spring of 2014.
The Ugly: Standing outside for hours may be too much for you, long lines of eager pilgrims jostling for the best view, pickpockets will be among the crowds and there will possibly be some price gouging.And you can just bet that many secular news outlets, no friend of the Catholic Church in the first place, will be looking for dissenters among those attending. They will be more than happy to broadcast their “concerns” over the Catholic Church’s stance on women, homosexuals, and the usual list of gripes. And of course they will try to attack the reputation of one or the other of these two holy Popes. That will apply more to those watching from home on TV than those actually at the ceremony but you may run in to some dissenters in the crowd…..
And all this is not really that ugly—we just stole that saying for this post.
So what’s the bottom line? Go if you possibly can!
Sure it will be crowded and you may not get very close to the ceremonies but it is a once in a lifetime happening for most of us. When Saint Juan Diego was canonized in Mexico City, John Paul II rode right by the front of our hotel. We didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. That one glimpse was worth the whole trip. The un-planned and unexpected are often some of the best memories.
Ask most people as they get older, and we think they are more likely to tell you that they regret the things they did not do rather than the things they did.
According to the latest statement by Cardinal Angelo Amato, who is prefect for the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, the dates will be announced on September 30th. It is on that date that Pope Francis will hold the Consistory of the Saints. This is a gathering of Cardinals, who along with the Pope, will set the date of Canonization for these two Popes.
Naturally that will put all speculation to rest. Certainly October is out, and based on what Pope Francis has said in the past it will probably be sometime in the spring when road conditions will be better for the thousands of Polish pilgrims who will undoubtedly want to attend.
One guess is Divine Mercy Sunday, which falls on April 27, 2014.
For many, he was the only Pope they knew. For others, his youthful vigor and willingness to reach out to all people and, indeed, travel the world to evangelize was something they had not seen before. His love for young people is evidenced in the success of World Youth Day, which he began and became a world-wide success. As one of the longest reigning Popes, it is sometimes easy to forget how young and active he was when he first took office. Too often the images we see are of his later years when physical limitations took their toll while his mind remained as sharp and resolute as ever.
With the prospect of Sainthood drawing near, his name will be in the news once again. But even before that event we have evidence of the great love and admiration for him in the many shrines dedicated to him throughout the world.
One of the most significant is the Shrine of Blessed John Paul II in Washington, DC. After having some tough times getting started it was sold to the Knights of Columbus in 2012 and with their financial and organizational might we expect it will become one of the most visited shrines in the world.
Other shrines may have garnered less publicity but have an interesting story nonetheless. An example would be the simple shrine in Bataan, the Philippines. It was here that Pope John Paul II came in 1981 to celebrate Mass in a remote refugee camp populated with an estimated 400,000 Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians (known as “the boat people”) who had fled here for safety in the late 1970’s. Many of these people were not Christian and did not even know who he was, but the message of hope buoyed their spirits. This is a small shrine and we are not aware of a website for the shrine.
Of course, as expected, there is a shrine to him in his native Poland in the city of Krakow. The new John Paul II Cultural Center in Krakow has just been completed and is still being staffed. Since the next World Youth Day in 2016 will be in Krakow this is sure to be one of the main attractions.
Is there a Shrine to Pope John Paul II we haven’t mentioned? Please let us know and we will add it or you can post it here yourself.